How to Take Gorgeous Pictures of Christmas Lights

Do your Christmas lights photos look flat? Blurry? Washed out? Is it just a bunch of white lights on a black background? Or are your lights not sparkly enough?

Photographing Christmas lights can be tricky, but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share with y’all. Follow these five tips and I promise you’ll be happier with your photos.

  1. When you’re shooting outside Christmas lights, timing is KEY.  While it’s obvious that you don’t want to shoot during the day when you can’t see the lights (and let’s face it, they probably aren’t even on!), what’s less obvious is that you also don’t want to shoot when it’s pitch dark. Photos of exterior lights hanging on buildings you can’t distinguish just aren’t exciting. So shoot before it gets dark, when sunlight is dimming and the Christmas lights start shining brighter…probably before most people even HAVE their lights on. You’ll be amazed at how gorgeous your photos become!
  2. Try to get some sky in your exterior photos. It may look dull in your viewfinder, but because of the magic of light waves and color shift and white balance and a bunch of other stuff I won’t bore you with (today, heehee), it’ll probably end up a beautiful blue in some of your shots. If it’s cloudy or overcast, that can still end up being beautiful and dramatic, too.
  3. Get in close. Even if you don’t have a macro lens, take close-up shots of your ornaments and other decor. We tend to take photos of our trees, but forget to highlight the bits and pieces that add up to be our special trees. I suggest not only taking photos of your favorite ornaments; be an equal opportunity ornament shooter!
  4. Try your hand at bokeh. You know, that pretty effect where background lights are blurry. The secret is to focus on something in the foreground while the lights are in the background. Having  your aperture as open as possible (that is, a smaller number like f/2.8. And, yes, you can set your aperture on the Samsung Galaxy camera. Awesome, right?) Play around with it a bit; eventually you’ll get it!
  5. Glow, baby, glow. For inside shots, turn on as many lights as possible.  More light = more glowing, and more glowing = pretty! Taking photos of decor that light up is always a good idea, and having the Christmas tree in the background adds depth and context.

nggallery id=62

  • Combining Christmas Lights and a simple background piece is always a great photo set up! 1 of 13
    Combining Christmas Lights and a simple background piece is always a great photo set up!
    For this shot I used Pixlr-o-matic and Phonto directly on the Galaxy camera and then uploaded to Dropbox to place in the post. How easy is that, right?
  • Shoot those outdoor lights at dusk! 2 of 13
    Shoot those outdoor lights at dusk!
    They twinkle and sparkle and aren't lost in void of darkness. (Unedited shot straight from Galaxy)
  • Just look at that blue sky! 3 of 13
    Just look at that blue sky!
    See how the amount of light from sky is about the same as from the lights? PERFECT time to shoot. (Unedited)
  • A close up of a Christmas decoration… 4 of 13
    A close up of a Christmas decoration...
    ...looks almost like it could be a real home. (Unedited)
  • Step back… 5 of 13
    Step back...
    and it's an entirely different picture. (Unedited)
  • Her expression is priceless, isn’t it? 6 of 13
    Her expression is priceless, isn't it?
    Side note- I collect what the boys call "Christmas Village" pieces from thrift stores. We have a huge collection of beautiful mini communities. The boys love them, and sometimes break pieces, but they are from thrift stores so no worries!
  • Time for your close-up. 7 of 13
    Time for your close-up.
    Sometimes the loveliest shots are in the wee details. (Unedited)
  • This is the lodge they run to… 8 of 13
    This is the lodge they run to...
    ...when escaping the paparazzi. (Or the kids) (Unedited)
  • LALALALALAAAAAA! 9 of 13
    LALALALALAAAAAA!
    Love this little ornament...he looks just so happy. My favorite (non-kid made) ornaments are from thrift stores. Last year I found a collection of Swiss wooden mini-ornaments at Goodwill. They are adorable and I keep them up high away from the 'Littles' hands. :)
  • Let it Snow! 10 of 13
    Let it Snow!
    This is another piece from the retro Swiss ornament collection from the thrift store. I just love this little guy. I took the shot, did all the editing and uploaded the final shot to my dropbox all on the Galaxy camera. Crazy easy. Original shot was edited with Pixlr-o-matic for the reto-y color filter and then I used Photo to add the text. Voila!
  • Unexpected shots… 11 of 13
    Unexpected shots...
    Just a simple shot of bead garland, but it tells the whole story. :)
  • Bokeh background. 12 of 13
    Bokeh background.
    The sparkly lights are so festive.(Unedited)
  • Village House and sparkly tree with some edits. 13 of 13
    Village House and sparkly tree with some edits.
    I used the Pixlr-o-matic app downloaded on the Samsumg Galaxy Camera (I know, right?!?!) and edited this shot. It's rather awesome. Shoot the picture, edit it right there on the camera and have it auto uploaded to a photo host. I have all my pictures uploaded to Flickr on private setting so I can choose my favorite shots to share.

A big thanks to Samsung for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.
Would you like to win your own Samsung Galaxy Camera? Repin one of the photos from our “Holiday Memories + Moments” Pinterest board with the hashtag #samsungmemories for a chance to win, or upload your own photo onto your personal board with the hashtag #samsungmemories. And from there, we will pick the top twenty photos. Contest ends December 31st, 2012.

Tagged as: , , , ,

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.